Riverboat Gamblers at 2 Cents Plain, Monday, February 25

Riverboat Gamblers vocalist Mike Wiebe wants you to know, he can sing, dammit! And if you don’t believe him, he’ll walk off the beer-soaked stage, climb up on the bar and serenade your ass. Like he did Monday night at 2 Cents Plain.

You’ll wonder if he’s covering an R&B standard (he did call himself a white Luther Vandross earlier), but then, the song sounds so plaintive -- and there he is stamping his foot and emoting, like he’s on American Idol. Is this really happening in the middle of a punk show, full of ass-kicking (okay, mild moshing) and beer spray? (Yes.)

If you’ve ever seen the Riverboat Gamblers, you aren’t surprised to see Wiebe off the stage. His skinny ass never stops moving. He tosses his mic, he climbs the amps, he crowd surfs. All while his band mates crank out fast tunes like “Hey! Hey! Hey!”, “Rattle Me Bones” (Something to Crow About), “True Crime,” “Don’t Bury Me…I’m Still Not Dead” and “The Song We Used To Call ‘Wasting Time’” (To the Confusion of Our Enemies).

The reception we gave the Gamblers Monday night at 2 Cents Plain must have told Wiebe to go for it. The band has been trying out some new material, and the faster songs held our attention.

If nothing else, he had to celebrate the fact that we could hear him in the first place. Last time the Gamblers were in town, they opened for the novelty metal act Valient Thorr at the Creepy Crawl -- and sound for the band's set was non-existent. Two Cents hasn’t exactly mastered sound either, but at least St. Louis can still give the boys from Texas a place to park the ol’ paddle-wheel. (The band’s name, by the way, was intended to set them apart from “silly, flowery” DallasDenton-area emo bands. No connection to our own Mississip.)

In fact, I think redemption was in the smoke-filled air. The Gamblers played a blistering finale. Afterward, an acquaintance of mine, who’d spent the show in a frenzy, looked around the venue and proclaimed, "This is like the new Creepy Crawl."

-- Kathleen McLaughlin

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